Chris Lange, FISM News
A recent Lifeway Research study revealed that nearly 7 in 10 U.S. protestant pastors believe that there is a growing sense of fear within their congregations about the future of the nation and world.
“The Bible tells followers of Jesus Christ to expect trials, tribulations and suffering,” Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research, said in a press release about the findings gathered from a survey of 1,000 Christian pastors. “However, Scripture doesn’t prescribe fear as the response to adversity. Instead, it frequently encourages rejoicing and faithfulness as anxieties are cast upon God.”
While 69% of pastors say that their congregations feel increasingly anxious about the future of the country and world, 63% said that their churches are exhibiting a growing sense of fear about the future of Christianity, specifically.
McConnell cited declining faith in the U.S. as a “trendline” that has fueled this latter source of anxiety, adding that “the growth of Christianity in other parts of the world is not bringing American Christians much comfort.”
“A large majority of pastors see their congregations moving toward fear rather than away from it,” McConnell said.
A constant barrage of headlines about global and domestic conflicts and tensions as well as persisting economic hardships have undoubtedly contributed to the broader category of fears among believers. But it is perhaps what is not being read that lies at the heart of this epidemic of anxiety.
Researchers at The American Bible Society (ABS) found that levels of hope and despair among believers correspond directly to the amount of time spent reading God’s Word.
According to the first installment of the nonprofit’s 2023 “State of the Bible” report, believers who consistently engage with Scripture scored 4.1 out of 5 on what researchers termed the Preserving Hope scale.
It is not surprising, then, that respondents who were disengaged from God’s word had the least hopeful outlook, measuring at 3.7.
ABS researchers noted in an April 2023 report that Bible engagement had plunged to 39% – the lowest percentage ever recorded since its first annual State of the Bible report in 2011.
LAURIE: ‘DON’T BE AFRAID!’
Harvest Christian Fellowship founder and pastor Greg Laurie recently asserted that Scripture is the antidote to fear. In a video posted to his X social media account, in which he made reference to the Lifeway study, Laurie suggested that growing fear among Christians “is probably because of the way things are in the world right now,” noting that “[t]here’s so much bad news, so many scary things happening.” However, he argued that viewing these events through the lens of Biblical truth should produce the opposite effect.
Some believers, according to Laurie, “don’t want to hear about” what they consider to be the “doom and gloom” of the fulfillment of scripture compelling Christ’s return.
“But the reality is, when we understand the teaching of the Bible on the end times, it should not fill us with fear but fill us with hope,” he said, adding, “In fact, the Bible refers to the return of Christ as ‘the blessed hope.’”
While some may argue that fear is merely a natural response to the trials and hardships of this life, the late Rev. Billy Graham once said that “Anxiety is the natural result when our hopes are centered in anything short of God and His will for us.”